Naambo Josephine Iipinge promotes a holistic approach to safeguarding wildlife

A pair of giraffes in a brown dusty landscape
Naambo Josephine Iipinge

HOME Tsandi Village, Omusati Region, Namibia

CAUSE Naambo Josephine Iipinge is the first female deputy director of Namibia’s vast Etosha National Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of critically endangered black rhinos. With a background in landscape management and conservation, including 18 years with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment Forestry and Tourism, Iipinge works to protect the park’s vulnerable species by supporting antipoaching efforts and fostering coexistence between people and wildlife.

What inspired you to get involved in conservation?

My journey into this career was motivated by my passion for biodiversity and sustainability and by my sense of responsibility to make the planet a more equitable place. I noticed there were a few women in this sector, and I was inspired by them to become someone who’s making a difference.

What is the importance of Etosha National Park?

Since Etosha National Park was established 116 years ago, it has become a cornerstone of Namibia’s conservation efforts. It’s home to elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, rhinos, and zebras, and more than 400 bird species. Many species have been translocated from the park to other conservation areas to encourage population recovery and genetic diversity.

How do you hope to protect rhinos and other animals against the ongoing poaching crisis?

Preventing wildlife crime requires an understanding of its root causes and a multifaceted approach involving community engagement, targeted training, and the strategic use of technology. Strengthening relationships with nearby communities, investing in surveillance, and enhancing staff capacity are just some of the plans I hope to implement in the coming years with support from national and international partners.

Why should women hold leadership roles in conservation?

I believe women innately make good decisions. They consider how their actions will impact future generations. Biodiversity loss directly affects the day-to-day activities of women and girls everywhere, from gathering food and water to collecting firewood, so it’s important for us to be actively involved in determining the success of conservation efforts.

What is your vision for Etosha’s future?

My vision is one of collaboration and shared responsibility—a park where wildlife thrives, habitats are preserved, and people collectively work toward conservation for the sake of nature and the enhancement of their lives.

More than one-third of the world’s black rhinos live in Namibia, about half of which reside in Etosha National Park.

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